After a lunch in Bayfield I convinced my wife that we should drive out to Madeline Island on the ice road. With all of the people in the area for the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race and the Apostle Islands Ice Caves I thought there would be a little more traffic than we actually saw.
Along the road there were cars parked and fishing shack setup. No one was outside fishing because it was only about 6 degrees out.
We did spot a couple of people who appeared to be walking to the mainland. It was about a 3 mile walk.
When we reached Madeline Island we noticed that two of the wind sleds were parked on the ice. These are used to transport people from Madeline Island to Bayfield between the time the Madeline Island Ferry stops running and the time the ice is thick enough for the ice road to open. They are also used again in the spring then the ice breaks up.
We drove around Madeline Island since it was the first time we had been on the island. Near the post office we found this tug boat frozen into the ice.
This past weekend my wife took a road trip to the Bayfield area. Our goal was to take in the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race, drive the ice road to Madeline Island and walk out to the Apostle Islands Ice Caves.
When we headed out from Duluth it was snowing hard and it snowed all the way to the sled dog races. We stopped at a gas station in Cornucopia. Another customer came in to ask where the sled dog races were and the clerk had never heard of the sled dog races and had no idea where they were. My wife gave directions and we headed off to the race. More on the race in another blog.
After the race we drove over to Bayfield for lunch. The goal was to drive the ice road to Madeline Island. It was still snowing as we drove out to Madeline Island.
We then headed back to the sled dog races to watch the racers come in. Surprisingly the dogs seemed to have a lot of energy when they returned.
Our next stop was going to be the Apostle Islands Ice Caves. This was the first time the ice caves have been accessible from Lake Superior since 2009.
As we rounded a corner on highway 13 we notice the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle and thought there might have been an accident because of the snowy roads. When we turned the corner there was a long line of cars parked along the road and cars backed up on the road. We were at Mawikwe Road which is 1.7 miles from Meyers Road. It finally dawned on us that these were people going to the Ice caves. We slowly drove down highway 13. People were walking in the road and cars stopped waiting for someone to leave their parking spot. We finally reached the Meyers Road which goes to the Apostle Islands parking lot. We continued driving toward Cornucopia. The line of cars along the road went another 3 miles.
Several weeks earlier the National Park Service estimated that 2,000 people visited the caves on a Sunday. Using the park service calculations I figured there must have been 6-8 thousand people visiting the caves on Saturday. An article in the Ashland Daily Press described the long line of people walking to the caves with their head down as reminiscent of the Bataan Death March. Some of the folks had longer to walk on highway 13 than they did from the Meyers Beach parking lot to the ice caves.
This was a sight that I never imagined I would see but it was great that so many people were taking advantage of the ice caves. With global warming it is something that we can no longer take for granted. If you want to avoid the crowds you should visit the caves during the week. If you can’t visit during the week you should arrive at the Meyers Beach parking lot before 9am.
An update in the Duluth News Tribune on 2/8/2014 reported that the Bay Area Rural Transit will be running a 27-passenger shuttle bus continuously to Meyers Beach one Saturday and Sunday because of the large crowds.